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Thursday, January 12, 2017, 23:04

Abe pledges US$8.7b investments to Manila

By Agencies
Abe pledges US$8.7b investments to Manila
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right) and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte walk together for their meeting at the Malacanang Palace grounds, Jan 12, 2017, in Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA, Philippines — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday pledged US$8.7 billion worth of business opportunities and private investments along with speedboats and other counterterrorism equipment to the Philippines.

His two-day visit to Manila aims to further solidify relations with the Philippines at a time when Duterte is cozying up to China and Russia while taking a hostile stance toward Tokyo's main ally, the United States. Japan is among the top trading partners of the Philippines and one of its largest aid providers.

The Philippines is Abe's first stop in a four-nation swing as he presses efforts to boost Japan's trade and security engagements. He will later travel to Australia , Indonesia and Vietnam.

Accompanied by his wife and a business delegation, Abe is the first head of state to visit since Duterte took office in June. It's an important affirmation of Duterte's leadership at a time when he faces domestic and international criticism for a brutal crackdown on illegal drugs that has claimed more than 6,000 lives.

Japan will help the Philippines fight illegal drugs by helping formulate treatment programs and improve facilities, Abe said.

In a bid to foster Philippine development, he said Japan "will create business opportunities through Official Development Assistance and private sector investments which, together, will be in the order of one trillion yen (US$8.7 billion) over the next five years."

Abe and Duterte witnessed the signing of a number of agreements and the exchange of documents, including a Japanese grant of 600 million yen (US$5 million) for boats and other counterterrorism equipment for the Philippine coast guard.

At the start of their talks, Duterte thanked Abe for Japan's help to strengthen the Philippine coast guard and said he was looking forward for the delivery of additional Japanese assistance.

After Manila, Abe will travel to southern Davao city, Duterte's hometown, where Philippine officials said the president may host breakfast for the Japanese premier at his home.

Duterte visited Japan in October when he and Abe agreed to cooperate in promoting regional peace and stability and acknowledged the importance of their alliances with Washington.

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